Washington DC 2016 Human Rights Cities Convergence Documentation
Human Rights Cities GatheringMay 26-27 2016
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Documentation-2016 Human Rights Cities Gathering
Human Rights Cities and Local Human Rights Implementation
For decades, human rights activists have been making the local global, using human rights to frame (and sometimes to litigate) local issues of egregious domination and oppression. By adopting a globally-recognized discourse and through forming trans-local networks, activists have drawn attention to their causes and helped to achieve meaningful social change at the local and national levels. These efforts have typically been organized around particular international human rights issues, such as human trafficking or political prisoners. In more recent years, however, local activists have begun to flip this model, making the global local by utilizing a human rights paradigm to frame and propel their local efforts around issues of social and environmental justice. The human rights framework helps to facilitate local and trans-local collaboration by highlighting the unity among various struggles and strengthening cross-issue networks among activists. Instead of vertical, single-issue networks, activists have been developing horizontal, cross-issue strategies.
One innovation in this practice of making the global local is the idea of the human rights city. Communities around the world have declared their commitment to human rights and have begun to build institutions and practices to realize this commitment in part through transforming their governments and their communities. The idea of a human rights city is to create an infrastructure for the realization of the full spectrum of human rights for all members of the community through deepening democracy and promoting social justice. Dozens of cities all over the world have adopted this approach, but it has received relatively little movement, media, and scholarly attention, and there has been limited coordination across such cities.
In response, the Washington, DC Human Rights City Steering Committee and the American Friends Service Committee, is planning to convene a two day gathering on Human Rights Cities in Washington, DC on May 26 and 27, 2016. The convening builds upon a similar gathering in the spring of 2015 that was organized by Pittsburgh's Human Rights City Alliance and the University of Pittsburgh's Global Studies Center. The Pittsburgh convening began a conversation about how we can learn from the various human rights initiatives taking place in cities around the world and started exploring ways to cooperate and enhance the efficacy of this work. Participants concluded that there is a real need for more dialogue and coordination among human rights organizers working in local (city/town/state) settings (see the summary report here). The proposed gathering is being led by the DC Human Rights City Steering Committee and planned in collaboration with the US Human Rights Network, Four Freedoms Forum, and the Pittsburgh Human Rights City Alliance.
Here are a few additional documents you can read prior to the gathering:
Report from 2015 Pittsburgh human rights cities gathering.
World Human Rights Cities Forum 2016 - Building Human Habitat Friendly Cities: Urban Development, Housing and Environment
2014 World Human Rights Cities Forum - Gwangju Guiding Principles for a Human Rights City
Human Rights Council - Research-based report on the role of local government in the promotion and protection of human rights
Local Government and Human Rights: Concept Note
Cities for CEDAW: A Campaign to Make the Global Local
CEDAW US Fact Sheet
We have two key objectives for this gathering. First, we aim to strengthen relationships among local advocates for human rights cities, national and international human rights advocates, scholar-practitioners whose work relates to human rights city organizing, and public officials who are exploring ways to better integrate human rights into municipal policies, programs, and institutions. Second, we will work to advance the knowledge about effective models and practices for realizing human rights cities and improve our methods for reporting and sharing this information.
Strengthening Human Rights City Networks
An explicit aim of the gathering is to consider how Human Rights City organizers and supporters can work together better and maintain ongoing collaborative relationships. Because our workshop will engage organizers from local community groups as well as groups working nationally and internationally, including the US Human Rights Network and National Economic and Social Rights Initiative, we will have the opportunity to consider organizational innovations that build upon existing organizational infrastructures to enhance local human rights organizing around the country. The gathering will provide space for explicit discussion of possible models for organizing ongoing dialogue and collaboration among Human Rights City organizers, and of the diverse resources and experiences that participants can bring to this effort. These conversations, moreover, will not be left until the last sessions of the gathering, instead we plan to help participants prepare for this discussion in advance of the workshop, and we expect to conclude the workshop with agreement on a specific plan for maintaining and developing the Human Rights Cities network.
Advancing Human Rights Knowledge
By bringing human rights city organizers from across the United States together with human rights scholar-practitioners and some prominent leaders of human rights cities from other parts of the world, we expect to identify some of the most effective models, practices, and organizing strategies used in cities around the country and world. We will consider the possibilities for and constraints on the replication of effective organizing models in different types of communities, identifying variations and adaptations that might support learning across communities. Finally, we will begin to identify how human rights city organizers can use particular international and regional treaties and other mechanisms to advance human rights in local settings. Specifically, we aim to enhance the use of international resources and opportunities ”including international treaty review processes, special procedures of the United Nations such as the recent Expert Working Group on People of African Descent visit to the United States, international reporting mechanisms such as UN treaty reviews and Organization for American States Inter-American Commission on Human Rights hearings, and models such as the European Coalition of Cities Against Racism's anti-racism 10-Point Action Plan and UNICEF's Rights Respecting Schools initiative ”by human rights advocates around the country. A particular focus will be on the challenges of advancing internationally recognized social, economic, and cultural rights as a critical foundation for the realization of the ultimate vision of Human Rights Cities. In addition, we will consider possible limitations on or untapped opportunities for engaging international human rights frameworks in U.S.-based organizing.
We have come together to organize this gathering because we believe we are at a critical moment where local activism for human rights is both urgent and vibrant. Having the opportunity for reflection about long-term visions and strategies and for information-sharing about successful and unsuccessful organizing efforts can both strengthen existing work in formally designated and aspiring Human Rights Cities and inspire new initiatives in other locales. In particular, we expect to engage with questions of how residents of rural areas can make use of models and tools developed in urban contexts.
We have invited more than 70 organizers and scholar-practitioners who we identified as working on human rights city initiatives to the gathering. Already 72 people (3/4 from outside Washington DC) have indicated a strong interest in participating in the workshop, and some have indicated that they would arrange to come at their own expense. However, a large number of the community organizers we wish to involve in these conversations do not have resources to travel to and stay in Washington, DC. We therefore write to apply for funds to support accommodations and travel costs for workshop participants from outside Washington, DC.
In addition, we are seeking individual, foundation, and organizational support to host the 2-day convening, including meeting space, participant meals, and other meeting-related costs.
The Washington, DC Human Rights City Steering Committee and the American Friends Service Committee will lead the organizing process, and its members will constitute the local organizing team. The local team will be primarily responsible for arranging the meeting logistics, and they will consult with the national organizing team as appropriate when making decisions about venues and meeting contexts. An important aim for the local committee is to use this gathering of national and international human rights leaders to strengthen the DC Human Rights City initiative.
The National Planning Team will consist of representatives from The Washington, DC Human Rights City Steering Committee and the other organizational co-organizers of the meeting ”the US Human Rights Network, Four Freedoms Forum, and the Pittsburgh Human Rights City Alliance. This team will develop the meeting agenda and schedule, assist with building a gathering website to provide participants with relevant background materials and resources, and support the local planning team.
The two key outcomes we anticipate is the creation of (1) a formal structure to facilitate ongoing collaboration among Human Rights Cities organizers and supporters and (2) a plan for aggregating and sharing relevant information and resources related to Human Rights Cities organizing. The National Planning Team will continue to meet following the DC gathering to ensure that these outcomes are achieved.